We all know Europe is the cradle of international education, but there are a lot of non-EU students who can’t afford to travel far away to Europe or North America to study abroad, and who would still love to benefit from the unique experience of international education.
Then, there are also many international students who want to try a new adventure for their studies – a destination that is less travelled but still offers a lot of opportunities. A few countries in the Middle East might provide just the right study experience for these types of students, while also offering quality English-taught degrees.
So, which are the best and the safest international study destinations in the Middle East where you can consider studying abroad?
Why study in Turkey?
Located at the border between Europe and Asia, Turkey bridges the gap between rich ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman cultures. It welcomes a varied mix of belief systems and its history can be tracked by the many sites attesting for the people who lived here. For students, Turkey is a great place to visit, explore and get immersed in.
As an added bonus to the diversity of Turkey, the education system in the country has integrated the Bologna System even though Turkey is not part of the European Union zone. This means that a graduated degree in Turkey will be recognized in Europe, offering more chances for further education and good employment opportunities.
Another great advantage is the study and living costs in Turkey, allowing you great education at a fraction of the cost of studying in most European countries. Turkey is a trading hub with a long history and the locals have realised that being welcoming is good for business are hospitable. What’s more, most of the city population is fluent in English.
Universities in Turkey
Here are some of the best universities in Turkey, according to international rankings:
- Koc University
- Sabanci University
- Middle East Technical University
- Bilkent University
- Bogazici Universitesi
- Istanbul Technical University
Here are a few other universities we recommend:
What you can study in Turkey
In Turkey, you can gain expertise in a variety of fields and subjects. Throughout history, Turkey has always had unique contributions to Science, Art, and Architecture.
Even today, with tech development centres popping up in all of the major universities, students everywhere can find the subjects that appeal to them most. You’ll find a variety of degrees in Engineering, International Relations and Business, that are also English-taught.
Explore all English-taught Masters in Turkey.
Places to visit
There’s a lot of culture to explore in Turkey, including iconic attractions in Istanbul like the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya Cathedral, the Great Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, but other great places to visit outside the nations capital are also ripe for exploration: beaches of Antalya, the natural wonder Pamukkale, old roman and Greek ruins, or the rock valleys of Cappadocia.
Why study in Israel
Israel offers a high-quality academic experience, with a lot of universities featured in top rankings and many available English-taught programmes which nurture an international learning environment.
Even though Israel has over 4,000 years of history and is often considered a traditional nation, the country is very much aligned with 21-century values. By studying in Israel, you will get into contact with a modern, multicultural society looking towards the future.
One example of the inclusion and tolerance of Israel is the city of Tel Aviv, which organizes one of the world’s largest gay pride parades, while Israel has been named ‘gay capital of the Middle East’.
The country has attracted and made massive investments in the economy and high-tech development, becoming one of Asia’s most ambitious start-up nations, with its own version of Silicon Valley. This welcoming business climate attracts international students from all over the world and has resulted in the impressive development of the country’s major cities.
Universities in Israel
These are the best-ranked universities in Israel, according to international university rankings:
- The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Tel Aviv University
- Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
- Ben-Gurion University of The Negev
- Bar-Ilan University
- University of Haifa
What you can study in Israel
You can find a surprising amount of variety when it comes to degrees you can study in English in Israel. The country’s start-up mentality is reflected in studies in Entrepreneurship, Engineering and Innovation while the value they place on culture and heritage reflects in programmes in Arts, Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies.
As a nation that looks towards the future, Israel also realises the importance of providing degrees in Environmental Sciences, Sustainability and Agriculture.
Explore all English-taught Masters in Israel.
Places to visit
While studying in Israel you will be close to famous religious sites like Jerusalem and Nazareth. Mount Zion is a holy site for Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshippers alike, including famous spots like King David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper.
Other places ready to be explored are the Sea of Galilee (Israel’s largest lake), the Dead Sea – 430 m below sea level – the Red Canyon, or Nagev Desert. You should also not miss the sunny beach of Tel Aviv or the port and beautiful gardens in Haifa. If nightlife in a modern city appeals to you more, Tel Aviv is Israel’s entertainment centre and the place to be.
Why study in Lebanon
International education in Lebanon is centred around the capital city of Beirut, so if you want to study in the country you will likely live here. Beirut is a safe city, remote from the conflicts in the region. The country has great schools, universities, a modern health system and good hospitals.
Lebanon is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East. Women can wear whatever they want, and alcohol is permitted. Beirut was called the party capital of the Arab world, for its busy nightlife and clubbing culture.
According to the New York Times 2019, Beirut is considered one of the top tourist destinations to visit. This welcoming culture is supported by friendly, easy-to-talk-to locals with a high level of education. Most locals speak 2 or 3 languages: English, French and Arabic. All this will guarantee a rich social experience during your studies.
The food in Lebanon is legendary and affordable – who hasn’t heard about the tasty Lebanese cuisine?
Universities in Lebanon offer degrees focused on Engineering, Business, Urban Planning, and Computer Science, but also Environmental and Social Sciences.
Explore all English-taught Masters in Lebanon.
Universities in Lebanon
Three universities in Lebanon offer English-taught degrees:
If you can't afford to go abroad, you also have the option of studying online at the Lebanese American University.
Places to visit
Influences by Phoenician, Greek and Roman cultures, as well as Ottoman rule and French influence in the region. All this mix of cultures has left many historical landmarks throughout the country that you will be able to visit during your stay.
These include many historical ruins and ancient temples, as well as the beautiful Phoenician Wall or Byblos Castle. There are also lots of mosques and cathedrals to explore as well as some castles and monasteries.
Because Lebanon has a large border with the Mediterranean, you’ll also have access to a lot of beautiful beaches and ports ripe for exploration, including a large variety of old towns along the coastline.
Most attractions in the country are a 2-hour drive away, so you could technically go skiing or trekking in the mountains in Faraya and head to the beach afterwards, on the same day.
There is also a lot of hipster culture to explore in Beirut, with many points of interest within walking distance. It’s also safe to say Beirut is the major fashion capital of the region.
4. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Why study in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is young, dynamic, and exciting – a nation of Bedouins that emerged into a successful state known for its diversity, political stability, and safety. The country is made up of seven emirates with Abu Dhabi as its capital, and Dubai as its most well-known region.
The country is committed to taking its higher education to the next level, investing in education improvement and research, in order to secure international accreditation and recognition.
The country’s ambition is attested by its constant and extreme transformation. The UAE’s strong economy is built on its proven oil reserves, international investment and tourism, making it a luxurious international study destination. The Emirates have implemented policies that offer strong incentives and protection to businesses offering them predictability and the right conditions to develop and excel.
Emiratis only make up approximately 20% of the country’s population, with the remainder coming from all over the Arab-Islamic world and beyond, ensuring its diversity and inclusion.
Because of this diversity and cooperation with international companies, and the country’s reliance on foreign workers, the UAE may be a good place to find a well-paid job after completing your studies.
The country’s official language is Arabic, but English is the main language used in universities.
Universities in the UAE
The best-ranked universities in the UAE are:
- United Arab Emirates University
- Khalifa University
- American University of Sharjah
- University of Sharjah
Other universities worth checking out include:
What you can study in the UAE
As a result of the developed business environment, a lot of Entrepreneurship and Business programmes are available for study in the UAE. Additionally, you can find a lot of Engineering programmes, studies in Civil Engineering, Environmental Studies, Computer Science, but also Medicine and Economics.
Explore all English-taught Masters in the UAE.
Places to visit
Ever heard of Dubai? Well, this region in itself is a treasure trove to explore while studying in the United Arab Emirates. You can visit Burj Khalifa - the world’s tallest manmade structure, measuring just under 830m. Legoland Dubai is one of the many theme parks and resorts in Dubai.
There are plenty of museums to explore, as well as water parks, aquariums, gardens and zoos. Many beaches are great for snorkeling and deep-sea fishing. You can even find an artificial skiing resort built in Dubai.
Visit the famous Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi which will soon contain a branch of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, a Performing Arts Center.
If you can afford it, there’s nothing you can’t do in Dubai or Abu Dhabi: water sports, parachuting, trekking, belly-dancing, shopping, bargaining at traditional souks, camel riding, and more.
5. Saudi Arabia
Why study in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing higher education systems in the Middle East, investing 20% of its annual budget in education. The country is also a global hub for international investment as Saudi Arabia keeps close relations to the Western world through its long-standing relationship to the United States.
Oil is the key asset that has transformed Saudi Arabia into one of the top 20 economies in the world. This has allowed the beautiful Arab country to build an impressive infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia is considered the birthplace of Islam, containing the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina. As such, it attracts Muslims from vastly diverse cultures across the world.
Students enjoy state-of-the-art resources and facilities, in universities providing the latest technologies necessary for lab work and advanced research.
Universities in Saudi Arabia
There are over 25 public universities in Saudi Arabia. Here are the best-ranked ones:
- King Abdulaziz University
- King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
- Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University
- Umm Al-Qura University
- King Khalid University
- Jouf University
- Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University
What you can study in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is committed to be a cutting-edge futuristic hub of innovation, industry, and sustainability in the Middle East. To achieve this, the leaders of the country are aware of the long-term value of investing in education.
Universities in Saudi Arabia are opening up opportunities for students in the fields of Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, IT, Finance and Banking as well as the Oil Industry.
Explore all English-taught Masters in Saudi Arabia.
Places to visit
Saudi Arabia mixes great ancient archaeological sites with mountain top ranges, lush oases, and majestic red sand dunes.
Jeddah and Riyadh are the economic centres of the country, marvelling visitors with their wealth and beauty. Medina and Mecca are the main religious centres. If you’re into shopping, there are a lot of luxurious malls to explore or window shop in.